In some cases high blood pressure can be prevented, or treated, with a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, stress reduction, weight-loss and diet. Many people find a vegetarian diet successfully helps to treat and/or prevent high blood pressure.
What Is High Blood Pressure?
1 in 3 adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure, or hypertension, a condition that is known as the silent killer because it usually displays no signs or symptoms. High blood pressure is any pressure reading more than 140/90 mmHg (prehypertension is 120/80 mmHg or above). Hypertension can lead to potentially deadly diseases such as heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, leg amputation, and blindness. It’s important to have your blood pressure checked regularly as early prevention and/or treatment is essential to prevent further damage to your body.
What Does it Mean to be a Vegetarian?
Vegetarian diets are healthful for people of all ages, and they can prevent and treat a variety of diseases. A “vegetarian” diet means a diet without meat or seafood, or products containing those foods. In addition to lower BMI (body mass index) and even lower cancer rates, vegetarian diets are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure readings than non-vegetarians. Vegetarians have higher consumption rates of fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, soy products, fiber and phytochemicals, and lower consumption rates of saturated fat and cholesterol.
Why Vegetarians can Have Lower Blood Pressure
Some studies have found that people on vegetarian diets have lower blood pressure. The results of these studies have found that BMI rather than diet accounts for the healthy blood pressure numbers in vegetarians. Of course, the compounds making up plant-based foods such as potassium, magnesium, antioxidants, dietary fat and fiber all contribute to lower blood pressure as well. Additionally, other studies over the years have also noted that diets rich in fruits and veggies can lower blood pressure.
Skip the Meat for Lower Blood Pressure
Vegetarians skip the meat, which is plays a role in lowering blood pressure. Red meats such as beef, pork and lamb contain more cholesterol and bad (a.k.a. saturated) fats than chicken and fish. Don’t forget, vegetables such as beans (pinto, kidney, garbanzo and soybeans) can provide sufficient protein to your diet. All of that cholesterol and saturated fat found in red meats raise your cholesterol levels, which can cause high blood pressure and endanger your heart health. Creative ways to add vegetarian-friendly foods to your diet include a black bean burger, a hearty bowl of lentil soup, soy-protein meat substitutes for bacon or sausage, as well as adding a healthy serving of beans to your salad.
The Best Vegetarian Food for a Lower Blood Pressure
Processed foods such as potato chips, frozen dinners and processed lunch meats are packed with sodium, which increases your blood pressure. Instead, opt for foods rich in whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fruits and veggies. Vegetables such as dark leafy greens (spinach), baked potatoes, baked acorn squash and mushrooms are high in potassium, which is the secret ingredient that lessens the effect of sodium on blood pressure. Not a fan of those veggies? Salmon, dried apricots, plain, skim and non-fat yogurt, as well as bananas are also rich in potassium.
If you’ve been diagnosed with hypertension, a vegetarian diet might be the key to your health success. Skipping out on meat doesn’t have to be a bad thing – you can still enjoy savory and hearty meals that are packed with all the nutrients you need for a healthier life.